Whilst I don’t want this to be seen as shamelessly promoting my work ( I’m a designer, of course I do) and the industry I work in, various conversations over the past few weeks have led me to seriously consider what compels businesses to build there own website using templates, and not hire a professional to do it for them. Firstly I’m sure cost is a major factor, you can build your own site for next to nothing and with the latest DIY software packages, you can create something that resembles a decent site. But this also got me to thinking about whether other trades have this problem?

If your radiators are broken at home do you try and fix them yourself or do you call a plumber? If you need to replace the tiles on your roof do you get up there yourself or call a roofer? And more importantly, does it make a difference if these things happen at your business as opposed to your home? I know few people who would start bleeding the radiators at their office if there was an issue with the heating, they would certainly call a plumber.

So why is it different with graphic design, and especially website design? Well like anything I suppose you can take DIY approach, and if you have a natural flair for design then you can really produce something that looks great and works well for your company, but ultimately, if you need your website to be a core element to your business success, hiring a professional is the only way to ensure you get things right first time.

I wanted to list a few points below that I considered the main reasons for hiring a website designer over going it alone, the list is anything but definitive, but covers a few pointers that I have raised with my own clients over time that may be interesting for you to read:

1. First Impressions. You only get one as they say and usually in today’s world, its likely it will be your website that will be making the initial contact for you. What does your website truly say about you and your business at first glance? does it look like you invested a lot into into it? Is there a depth in the design that reflects your business? DIY template website’s are cheap and easy to build but always bear in mind that there are only so many templates out there and your customers will have more than likely seen them all in some shape or form.

2. Maintenance time and debugging. I truly believe that most people can design something that looks appealing, even if you have terrible taste in design ( yes that’s you Mr”I think using pink and orange as my main colours would be great”) you can create something that will work as a website, but making it look good its only 10% of the job. Making it function correctly and work for you is the hard part. Template sites are great a providing the building blocks and skeleton of the site, but only a seasoned professional will know the tricks of making your website work first time, and positioning the site in the best possible place to gain you exposure and ultimately, gain more customers. If there is a slight glitch in a template, then there’s a glitch in every website created with it and you have no one to call directly to solve the issue quickly.

3. SEO – Sometimes I read the claims of companies selling SEO plug ins for their template website’s and quite frankly it baffles me. Of course a plug in for SEO is great, it certainly saves time. SEO is a very delicate process or planning, research and implementation. There are hundreds of factors to be considered and with the constant changing parameters of search engines it can seem like a never ending task. Using a plug in will save you time, but will not gain you the long term results you require as it can never me personalised to your business requirements. Think about this for second; SEO is about positioning yourself above your competition with regards to search criteria, to do this you must identify as having something your competitors do not, and where you do match up, providing a better resource. Simply put, you need to appear to be better at what you do than your competition. How are you going to do this if you using the same SEO plug in as your competitors and every one else out there? If everyone uses the same SEO plug in there is nothing individual and special for the search engines to pick up on.

4. The Real World paradox! This one is my personal favourite, with many clients I ask them to consider their future website not as a website, but as a retail store on a high street. If you were opening a store on a high street would you hire a designer and shop fitter to make your store look similar to everyone else on the high street or would you ask for something different with a “wow” factor? and, would you invest the least amount of time and money into your store so it would be describes as, just OK and forgettable? The answer I get from most people is no of course not, if you were opening a store one of your main priority’s would be making your store stand out, make it eye catching and appealing to help you bring in customers.

Attention all business owners! – Your website is your High Street Store!

Now I know what your going to say, I’m a solicitor, not a shoe shop, I don’t need a store, just an office thank you. Yes, you are right, but ultimately why have a website then? You want a website because 9 times out of 10, people will search online for a service or product they intend to purchase or consume before venturing out of the house or turning to a phone book. You need a website to give your business a presence online whether your selling shoes, or practising law. This leads me ultimately to the point I make to lots of company’s, would you want your shop, or office, to be described as, just OK? Do you want it to be unforgettable? Or do you want to create a space that makes you and your staff proud and a space that shouts about who you are what you company can offer, and ultimately make you a ton of business? Most people then hire a professional designer.

Yes, we sometimes seem expensive, but there is a reason for that, Website designers and Graphic Designers know what we are doing, and we do it right the first time. If you want perfect results that are going to make you and your business a success, then hire a professional.

Yak (stepping off my soap box) out!